Oliver Purnell could breathe a sigh of relief after surviving a near upset by South Carolina State Tuesday night.
“I really take much, most, all of the responsibility for the way our team played,” he said. “I didn’t really get us as ready as I should have.
“I probably had our guys looking forward to closing this one out and our last dress-rehearsal and all of that. That’s kind of the way we played.”
He doesn’t take anything away from Tim Carter’s Bulldogs, who he credited with keeping the game close.
“They fought, they never gave anything up. It’s kind of like their last game at Iowa,” Purnell said.
With the win, Clemson improves to 12-2 before ACC play gets under way this Sunday at Duke.
S.C. State (6-4) was down 41-30 at halftime, before storming back in the second half, bringing the deficit within a point.
Facing an 11-point deficit, the Bulldogs scored on its first four possessions to start the second half. For a stretch during the half, the Tigers had turnovers on four straight possessions, but gave up just one basket on the defensive end.
An offensive rebound and put back by Arsenio Williams cut the score to 62-60 with just over seven minutes to play. The shot brought S.C. State within two points--the closest deficit since there was 15:36 left in the first half.
David Potter’s 3-pointer at the 5:17 mark in the second half put Clemson up 65-60. He scored again after following up a missed layup by Demontez Stitt.
Darnell Porter hit an erratic two-point field goal with 1:56 left, stopping a five-minute scoreless drought, and cut the Clemson lead to 67-62. The lead was bumped back up to six when Trevor Booker hit the second of two free-throws.
On Clemson’s next two possessions, the Tigers missed both one-and-one opportunities. S.C. State answered on consecutive possessions with a 3-pointer from Carrio Bennett and a two from Tyvon Williams, bringing the score to 68-67 with less than a minute to play.
A pair Demontez Stitt free-throws gave Clemson its final points, forcing Flagler’s desperation shot.
Purnell was disappointed that his team played what he called a “tentative” second half.
“It kind of reminded you of the Illinois game,” he said. “We were a little tentative when we didn’t score,” he said. “We didn’t go to the line with the courage to make free-throws.”
Clemson won this time around, unlike the Illinois game. Outside of the win, Andre Young had trouble searching for a positive from the game to take into conference play.
“They came in and really gave it to us in our own house,” he said. “Honestly, we just didn’t respond well.”
On a pair of back-to-back buckets, Young first knocked down a three before stealing the ensuing inbounds pass and laying in another two. He finished the night with seven points and three steals.
Stitt and Noel Johnson each scored a team-high 13 points while Trevor Booker scored 12 and grabbed eight rebounds.
Booker doesn’t think down-to-the-wire games like Tuesday’s are necessary before conference play.
“I would rather just blow everybody out. Sometimes, you might need a game like this to stay humble,” he said.
Despite a trip to Durham, N.C. looming on Sunday, Booker didn’t think anyone was looking ahead.
“I thought, maybe, we could just blow them out easily and not have to come out and play that hard,” he said.